The rough guide to landlords

When you rent your home or buy a leasehold property, how much do you know about the landlord? Not a lot, usually. But if the landlords profiled below seem familiar, then here's how you can deal with them ...
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The Toff

Habitat: big estates in the most expensive parts of London.

Style: tough, pukkah, reliable. Sees houses as very long term investment. Scrupulous about standards. Insists stucco-fronted properties are painted magnolia. All alterations require permission and attract a fee. Will come and paint house if you have neglected it and send you the bill. Seriously resistant to selling freeholds.

Biggest plus: keeps up property values.

Biggest minus: only gives short leases.

How to handle: majority of tenants grand enough to demand fair and prompt service. If you're not, find a neighbour who is. Remember, big estates dislike trouble as they have their reputations to consider.

The Rigsby

Habitat: old terraced houses at the railway end of town.

Style: amateur, frugal, ever-present. The most common species of landlord - or landlady. Lives on-site or close by. Likely to furnish place with cast-offs, but wants everything looked after. Personal relationship with tenants.

Biggest plus: if anything goes wrong he is right there, so you can pester him until the job is done.

Biggest minus: if you invite 50 close friends round for a party, or one very close friend for the night, he or she will know about it.

How to handle: establish personal relationship, but insist on certain level of privacy. Check if a member of ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) - it suggests a professional attitude.

The Corporate

Habitat: large, purpose-built blocks of flats.

Style: professional, impersonal, efficient - if you're lucky. A growing breed, the corporate landlord (or his managing agent) handles the flats rented by the new generation of young professional tenants. The ethos is no hassle. If the fridge breaks down, you ring the number and it's fixed by the time you get home. Furnishings should be new or newish.

Biggest plus: excellent service.

Biggest minus: you have to pay for it - either in rent or service charge.

How to handle: they expect you to behave professionally, too. If you're late with payments, don't expect tea and sympathy. If their standards fall, write and tell them on your firm's headed notepaper.

The Absentee

Habitat: anywhere other than in the properties for which he has responsibility.

Style: incompetent, undemanding, distracted. Landlord is just one of a string of occupations. Charges almost nothing; does almost nothing. Simpler to buy and fix your own communal carpet than wait for him to do it. Supplies no accounts or receipts. Lax attitude towards buildings insurance.

Biggest plus: cheap.

Biggest minus: if you're renting, it's likely to be a tip; if he is your freeholder, you may have problems selling in the absence of proper recorded payments.

How to handle: be persistent about repairs. Don't wait until you have a buyer before you sort out the backlog of unpaid bills.

The Landlord from Hell

Habitat: leasehold flats in converted houses.

Style: ruthless, exploitative, vindictive. Buys freeholds in bulk at auctions for a few thousand pounds each and gets his money back swiftly from the leaseholders. Does deals with decorators and builders: they submit bills to the tenants for twice the real sum and the landlord collects the profit. Slaps a management fee on everything. Threatens to evict you if you query costs. Picks off the most determined leaseholders.

How to handle: avoid at all costs. Check him out with other flat-owners before you buy. Do not rely on solicitor to find out. Once in, try to get out. If that's impossible, seek safety in numbers. Band with similarly maltreated leaseholders and take him on.